At the end of your tenant’s tenancy, they will usually look to request their deposit back from you. Or if your property is managed by an agency, refer your tenants to them to request the deposit back.
Their request for the deposit to be returned should be in postal mail, or email form, keeping records of when it was asked for, as well as your acknowledgment or response back.
During this time there’ll be a period in which you, or the managing agent will have to inspect and make an informed decision on whether the tenants caused damages whilst occupying the property.
When they communicate their notice to vacate, politely ask them to look around the property to note any issues or damages that happened in their tenancy, to look to rectify them. The most common damages are usually DIY jobs and can be rectified without the need for expensive contractors! This’ll lessen the chances of you withholding some, or even all of their deposit.
Upon their move-in, they should have been given a copy of the check-in inventory for their records. It’ll help them gauge a good idea of how the property was when they moved in, and you can ask them to refer back to it when they look over the property themselves. Items that were left in the property, the condition of the walls and flooring, down to the cleanliness of the property. At the very least, your property should be left in the same condition you gave it to them in.
When they vacate, it would be advised you conduct a check-out inventory and report, collating pictures, together with annotations to gauge the best idea of the condition the property was left in. Ideally, you’d do this roughly 2 weeks prior to them moving out.
This’ll give you a chance to have a look around, discuss any concerning areas, and give your tenants an opportunity to rectify the discussed areas, with in most cases it not affecting their tenancy deposit.
During your visit, make side-by-side comparisons with the check-in inventory you should have conducted when they moved in, you’ll be able to make clear distinctions of what the change of condition has been during their tenancy.
Some of the things you should look for, that are deductible from a tenancy deposit are:
- Outstanding payments of rent
You might look to deduct outstanding rent owed to you from your tenant’s deposit, the immediate down-side to this, is that if there are any physical damages to your property, you’re likely to have little-to-no funds in the deposit left to address the issue.
- Damage in, on or around the property
The list is endless, from holes in doors and walls, cracked or smashed windows, broken fixtures, or units, stained or soiled carpets, chairs, sofa’s, mattresses etc.
- Broken items that were in the check-in inventory
Chairs and tables, sideboards, TV units etc. Items that may have formed as a ‘part-furnished’ or ‘furnished’ property, that you included within the tenancy agreement that have been damaged.
There is a fine-line between damage during a tenancy, and fair wear and tear. It’s important to clarify this with your tenant, and guidelines are given at the start of the tenancy of what the expectation is whilst they occupy the property.
Generally, things that shouldn’t usually be deducted from deposits are:
- Replacing sofas, carpets etc that are old and outdated.
Replacing them is classed as part of due diligence of owning a property, most items have a lifespan of a few years, and should be renewed or replaced periodically.
- Repairs that were communicated to you, but you didn’t get round to sorting.
If you were informed of a repair or maintenance issue, and you weren’t swift enough to fix it. If It then goes on to damage the property further, this is not your tenant’s fault. If you rectified the problem swiftly, it may not have damaged anything further.
- Exaggerated charges.
If whilst your tenant has lived there, 1-2 walls have been scuffed slightly through the period of the tenancy… Then claiming for a whole room to be repainted is unethical as you are trying to claim for more than what damage they’d actually caused!
This is a relatively normal occurrence of owning a rental property, most tenants rightly-or-wrongly, will try to challenge your claims of damage, as it’ll mean the deposit they were expecting back, may have deductions or won’t be repaid at all.
As previously mentioned, be mindful of claiming for unreasonable amounts from their deposit, be transparent about what’s being claimed for, and why.
It would be best to record this conversation, so that there are no discrepancies shown as mis-communication. Having it recorded from the get-go will give you ammunition to refer back to for future reference if necessary.
Having evidence of quoted, or completed works will help your case, it’ll prove the amounts your claiming for is accurate and not misrepresentative.
If you can’t come to a mutual agreement for either the claims made for, or the amounts being charged, your next step towards resolution will be to open an action with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme you registered the deposit with. The adjudicator will be an impartial third-party presence overlooking the case, that makes an informed decision based purely on the merits of the evidence both sides have submitted.